Allen Toussaint Awarded The National Medal Of Arts

Jul 11, 2013

President Obama presents the National Medal of Arts to Allen Toussaint
Credit White House video

Allen Toussaint received the National Medal of Arts on July 10, 2013 in a ceremony at the White House. The medal is the United States government's highest award for artists and patrons of the arts.

"The work that we honor today, the lifetime achievement of these artists and these scholars, reminds us that the human imagination is still the most powerful tool that we have as a people. That’s why we celebrate their creativity and the fundamental optimism, the notion that if they work that hard somebody will actually pay attention. That’s why we have to remain committed to the dreamers and the creators and innovators who fuel that progress and help us light the way ahead, because our children, our grandchildren deserve to grow up in a country where their dreams know no bounds and their ambitions extend as far as their talents and hard work can take them."  — President Barack Obama

Toussaint was cited for "his contributions as a composer, producer and performer," said Obama. "Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues, and lifting it to the national stage."

Today, we're jumping at the chance to celebrate the artist and his work. Gwen spoke with Allen Toussaint at his home, at his piano.



Many of the songs heard this hour are available for you to stream to your desktop or mobile device. And here's a complete playlist of all the tunes that you can take with you the next time you visit your local record store.


Allen Toussaint's (@AllenToussaint) friends on Twitter were quick to praise the artist. We've assembled some of their tweets here.

But our favorite?  This one from @goatsound:

...sure, write "mother in law", "sneakin Sally" & "Night People" & the president gives you a medal!!

Our thanks to Tom Cole and Jim Lesher of NPR News for their help this week. Don't forget to check out our website at